MINNEAPOLIS – A standoff continues over the U.S. trade deal with Canada and Mexico designed to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Although President Donald Trump signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement late last year, the accord still needs approval from Congress.
Karen Hansen-Kuhn, director of trade and global governance with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, also notes there are many calls within the U.S. to change some of the language in the agreement.
She says the original NAFTA meant the loss of hundreds of thousands of family farms, and farmers are wary that the new deal could be more of the same.
“I think a lot of farm groups are just concerned that it could be worse,” she states. “They’re worried that Trump might withdraw from the agreement or that tariffs might go up. Everything is so unstable now and unpredictable – and that’s bad for farmers.”
Hansen-Kuhn adds that overproduction is a top concern for Minnesota dairy farmers and that this deal could undercut calls to implement a policy similar to Canada’s.
Dairy farmers north of the border have a management policy that keeps the supply of milk in balance with demand in the country, helping small farms and relying on restricted milk importation.
Hansen-Kuhn says the USMCA would chip away at that system.
Sharon Treat, a senior attorney with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, is concerned with regulations designed to protect the public that could be bulldozed in the new trade deal.
She says one chapter of the USMCA relates to “good regulatory practices,” laying out how to harmonize regulations between countries, such as meat inspection and food labeling.
Treat says the problem is that the committees deciding this are largely opaque and dominated by industry interests, meaning regulation across the board could be reverted to the lowest common denominator.
“When these corporations talk about it, they call that a ‘non-tariff barrier,’” she points out. “It’s a barrier to trade, in their view, because they have to pay money to comply with these regulations, and it should be gotten rid of.”
Treat says it’s important to get this deal right because it reaches into every aspect of Americans’ lives.
“Once in place, this becomes a law that is not something that can be changed, and I think that that is a really significant consequence of a trade agreement and we should be much more thoughtful about what goes into a trade agreement,” she stresses
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